I have been doing some thorough cleaning in my lovely attic studio to welcome new master’s students, who are going to crash this week for the AID on 18-23 August 2017. During the AID they’ll probably cycle around Wageningen and its surroundings to get a proper introduction to this idyllic Dutch countryside. Doing your master’s, how exciting! You are going to make new friends from around the world because Wageningen University and Research is full of international students.
Indeed, Wageningen needs international students. That’s a fact. As reported by the Student Alliance Wageningen on 14 May 2017, Wageningen University was struggling because there were too few students before 2000. At that time, Utrecht University was interested in taking over the Life Sciences faculty. Naturally, increasing the number of international students was proposed as one key solution to revitalize the university since nobody could expect the number of young Dutch citizens to miraculously proliferate overnight.
When I talked with former students of Wageningen University, they confirmed this story and pointed to the stark contrast between then and now. The university worked very hard to attract international students. The stigma of a dying agricultural university was replaced by the reputation of being ‘the best university in the Netherlands’, for the twelfth time in a row in 2016, according to its own students. We even got a chocolate medal to celebrate this accomplishment. However, Wageningen’s hard-earned reputation also translated into high pressure on its students.
As new students, you might be overwhelmed by the intense expectations at this ‘best university’. But in my opinion, the best university is a university that provides you with the best educational service to equip you with the skills that you need. Bear in mind, the university needs you. You can reciprocate by communicating what you need from the university.
Some of you, especially international students, might think that this attempt is a waste of time in your two-year stint (or even less). But do it anyway, for the sake of practicing the art of negotiation. This is an important life skill. I might argue that it is even more important than any study materials that you will get in the classroom.
Good luck, and welcome to Wageningen!
Nadya Karimasari is a PhD candidate at the chair group Sociology of Development and Change.